Sunday, May 2, 2010

It Is May Again

For the past 3 years I have been re-running a past May blog post. Three years ago I started blogging on the advice of my speech therapist. The following explains where I am going with this explanation, especially for followers of my blog who might not really know me...Read on...

May has always  been a special month for my family…spring is in full swing, my husband’s  birthday falls in May and of course so does Mother’s Day.[ I am mother to two handsome men! ]  But this year May has taking on new meaning for us... as it is  designated as Stroke Awareness Month.
And we are very aware about  stroke. Now.

On July 29th of 2006, my husband  and I, along with my sister who was visiting from California, were all  headed from our farm in Morrill, Maine to my eldest brother’s home in  New Hampshire to celebrate his 70th birthday. It was a surprise party  for him, and for the first time in a long time, my siblings and I were  going to be together to party and have a good time. We arrived on time  and I got out of our car to greet everyone. I was feeling so happy to see us  all together. My sister-in-law, Bev walked up to me and started talking  …I could hear her, but I couldn't make out a word that she was saying. I  did not feel right, but was busy looking around at everybody when I  realized I couldn't see my right hand or arm and I could not figure out  where they were…and I was still trying to understand Bev. She sounded  like a slow broken record and her words were all jumbled to me. I looked  around for my husband, Les, and when I saw him I asked, “Where’s my arm?  And he said “By your side? What’s the matter?” Then I guess everyone  saw something was wrong with me. I remember them helping me into the shade of a huge tree on the grounds and helping to lay me down on to the ground. I looked up at everyone…I did not know what was happening. I  could not really talk and tell them what I felt and a sea of faces looked down on me. But through it all a strange feeling of calm and  peacefulness filled my being and I knew it would be all right. I was  suffering a stroke. I missed my brother’s 70th.

To make a long  story short…I was rushed to a hospital in N.H. and then was transported  by ambulance to Portland, Maine, and admitted into Maine Medical Center.  This was done in order that I should be closer to my family and  doctors.
Tests were started.. The left side of my brain had been  ‘attacked’ when the blood flow was interrupted or stopped due to a blood  clot. A significant part of my left temporal lobe was affected and this  left me with right-sided paralysis and Aphasia. Aphasia is a condition  where language problems make it difficult to talk the way I used to and  makes writing very difficult for me. Something that was so important to  me in my life before [ I have worked as a newspaper reporter and fashion editor in the past…and I wrote poetry.] ....was now something that was so difficult. My understanding and comprehension of speech were unimpaired,  but speech itself became hard, as my speech related muscles would not cooperate and my brain could not find the words to say what I wanted to. 

But what was more  important to me, as I lay on the hospital bed with my family around  me…could I still draw??? I managed to get the nurse to understand what I  wanted…. a pencil and paper. She brought them and everyone looked on as I  sketched an eye, a horse head……….okay… I could live with the  limitations I had a this point. I could draw, and this would mean I  could paint. Life was good!!!

In the week that passed in  between hospital tests, MRI’s and blood work, I sketched some, slept a  lot, but I knew I needed to get home, to our quiet farm where I would be  alone with my husband, see my Corgi and our horses, see and smell our  gardens and get down to the business of getting better…. to getting  ‘Kathi’ back!
This year and half that has passed has been  difficult. [ This happened in  summer of 20O6.] Our horses became my therapy, as I brushed them, while walking  with a cane, my hand and arm gained strength. I cleaned stalls, needing  the muck fork to help to stand up with. Throwing hay and lifting shaving  bags became my upper body strengthen exercises. I had a speech therapist  come and work with me in our home, who helped me start to get over some  the Aphasia problems…and an occupational therapist to help me get my  hand strength and coordination back.
And I painted…and drew and I slept. I slept a  lot. I still sleep some times during the day.. needing naps to replenish my energy.[ That is getting better now..I find I don't need to nap most days...but still 'hit a wall' on times and need that power nap to re-power my brain! ]

I started a blog after my speech therapist suggested that I do it... as an exercise to recapture my language skills. Each and every blog  entry has my recovery in it. Metaphorically each of my paintings tells  of my struggles and my victories...most in the form of equine art.
But  through it all I knew that my attitude about what I was going through  was more important to me than what had happened to me. My recovery  depended on my attitude. I cannot control what happens to me in  life..but I can control my attitude. And that is my life's mantra  now………"’If it’s gonna’s up to me."

And I have also been blessed with a wonderful  husband, who has been beside me through it all. Les has been the wind  beneath my wings.

So in a nutshell….that is my story. Why I  blog.. and the road leading up to the beginning of my blog. That is my  story and I am sticking with it.

So that recaps why May is SO special.and why I feel that I need to tell people about stroke!


About 700,000 Americans each year suffer a new or recurrent  stroke. That means, on average, a stroke occurs every 45 seconds.

Stroke  kills more than 150,000 people a year. That's about 1 of every 16  deaths. It's the No. 3 cause of death behind diseases of the heart and  cancer.

On average, every 3 to 4 minutes someone dies of  stroke. 

Of every 5 deaths from stroke, 2 occur in men and  3 in women. 

The 2004 stroke death rates per 100,000  population for specific groups were 48.1 for white males, 47.4 for white  females 73.9 for black males and 64.9 for black females.

Americans  will pay about $62.7 billion in 2007 for stroke-related medical costs  and disability.

*Source: ASA

Any  or all of the following:

Sudden weakness or numbness of the  face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body

Sudden  confusion, trouble speaking or understanding

Sudden trouble  seeing in one or both eyes

Sudden trouble walking, dizziness,  loss of balance or coordination

Sudden, severe headaches with no  known cause


Kaylyn said...

Your extraordinary paintings are the product of a stroke victim. Amazing. Absolutely amazing.

Your therapist did us all a huge favor in suggesting you blog. You write so well and share so many wonderful stories and images that it is obvious it was precisely the right therapy for you. Perhaps she can suggest to others that they find stalls to muck!

I am so happy on this most beautiful May day to read such a moving story. And that you have recovered so well.

sue said...

Thank you for sharing your story Kathi it is so inspirational. Your art is fantastic

My stepson (aged 28) had a motorcycle accident 2 weeks ago and has been in a coma since then. He has begun to open his eyes briefly and we know he will pull through but its going to take time. Stories like yours help so much. Thank you

Marie Theron said...

And there you are, Kathi! You are the one artist that gave me the impression that you were just born into an artist,s family and have been doing it from a early age! And congrats on the 3rd anniversary of your blog!

jennprattequineartist said...

Kathi - thank you for sharing that. I feel like I know you a wee bit better today...very inspiring


Alyson Champ said...

I remember hearing the news about your stroke through the EAG grapevine. Until just now, I didn't realise the extent of the damage nor the severity of it, which makes the wonderful artwork you have continued to produce all the more amazing. You are truly an inspiration. Thanks for sharing!

Kpeters said...

Sue, Praying for your stepson's recovery. Brain injury is hard for folks to understand who have not suffered it.But it is amazing how the brain can rewire itself! Mine is still rewiring! hugs to you both!

Kpeters said...

Kaylyn,Marie,Jenn and Alyson...thanks for your encouragement. Art itself heals. Horses heal one's heart too....I feel so blessed.
And if I can make folks aware of stroke symptoms,then there is hope!
Marie, You can learn more about my background in the article written about me on my website on the About page.It is in PDF form and can be read in its entirety. Enjoy!

Laura Barber-Riley said...

Gosh Kathi, it must have been absolutely terrifying for you, and your family. I have been a fan your your beautiful work and a follower of your blog for some time and had no idea you were recovering from such a dreadful injury. As others have said, a very moving and inspiring story.

J Nocifora said...

Your story is one of incredible personal strength. What an inspiration you are to those who have experienced a significant illness such as a stroke.

Thanks Kathi fo sharing your story. I wish you contiued good health and happy painting. Your work is beautiful!

All the best,

Kpeters said...

Thanks Laura and Judy.....and rest assured that I will continue to paint! That is a given!!